Venerable Abp. Fulton J. Sheen once made the profound remark that Jesus was the only Man born to die. In his book Life of Christ, he went on to explain:
The story of every human life begins with birth and ends with death. In the Person of Christ, however, it was his death that was first and His life that was last. … It was not so much that His birth cast a shadow on His life and thus led to His death; it was rather that the Cross was first, and cast its shadow back to His birth.
That Cross that cast its shadow back onto the crib of the Nativity is seen in the martyrs' feast days following the great Solemnity of Christmas: St. Stephen, the Feast of the Holy Innocents, St. Thomas à Becket, even St. John the Apostle, who suffered his own type of martyrdom for bearing witness to Christ.
These saints followed the path Our Lord trod, Who was born to bring hope to a hopeless world steeped in sin, to unshackle us from the chains of sin so tightly wound around us we could not break free with our own power — but that loosing would only be accomplished at a great price, the greatest price: His very life. Those who would follow Christ must be willing to walk down the same path He walked, leading even to our own deaths — and ultimately to eternal life.
Watch the panel discuss martyrdom in The Download—Christmas Violence.